Building Your Cyber Mentoring Network: CAPSLOCK & Beyond
At CAPSLOCK, we aim to always provide our learners with an excellent learning experience, including a world-class curriculum taught by people with real-life cyber industry experience.
However, the education is only one element of the overall CAPSLOCK journey. We know that the career transition our learners are making is hugely exciting and can also be a little daunting. That’s why we also provide a wide range of additional support, from one-to-one coaching sessions with our Head of Coaching, to hands-on help with finding a role with our Head of Careers.
We also have a well-established mentoring scheme at CAPSLOCK, with each team of learners being assigned their own industry mentor for the duration of the course. These mentors, many of whom have worked in cyber security at the highest levels, are there to support and advise our learners as they transition to a cyber career.
There can be confusion about the role of a mentor, why you might need one and how to find a mentor that works for you. This article will demystify what a mentor is and help you identify the right kind of person to help you excel in your cyber security journey through CAPSLOCK and beyond!
When discussing the types of professional relationships which can enhance your career, you might hear the terms ‘mentor’ and ‘sponsor’ used, and sometimes interchangeably. They are actually two different things, and we will explore the difference between them in this article too.
What is a Mentor?
In a professional setting, a mentorship is a relationship between an experienced, established person in your line of work (the mentor) and a person who is learning from their mentor’s guidance and experience (the mentee).
Usually people look for a mentor when they’re starting a new job, switching industries, or wanting to progress in their current career and get a promotion, maybe into a managerial role. At this point, it’s a great idea to look for a mentor who can support you in developing the skills or capabilities that will get you on to the next rung of ladder, whatever that might be.
When looking for a mentor, it’s important that you identify the kinds of skills you’re looking to develop and find a person who embodies those qualities, skills and experience. For example, if you’re looking at going for a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) role, there are many different types of CISOs you could ask for mentorship. Some CISOs are very technically-oriented and have worked their way to the top through mainly technical roles. On the other hand, some CISOs have more of a business focus and have worked in roles related to things like project management. So you need to consider what your approach will be, what your goals are, and what skills you want advice on so you can align yourself with the right kind of mentor.
In summary, mentors act as an advisor for your career, often when you’re making a change into a new industry, new role, or moving up the career ladder. This means that mentor relationships can be quite short-term and are more outcome-focused than a sponsor relationship.
What is a Sponsor?
Sponsorship, in the context of a business relationship, is like an evolved version of a mentorship. If you have worked with a mentor for some time, and the relationship is effective and beneficial, the mentor may become more directly supportive of your career and become an advocate for you. At this point, your mentor has become your sponsor.
CAPSLOCK’s Head of Mentoring, Amy Stokes-Waters, said:
“I’ve had a career sponsor for the last eight years. My sponsor is a woman who saw some potential in me when we worked together and who encouraged me to get involved in things like the Women in Tech network. She’s encouraged me to go for public speaking opportunities and to attend conferences and workshops. She’s advocated for me within a work context and helped with my personal development as well.
I’ve always found sponsors in the form of my boss or a senior management team member because I have the opportunity to speak with them on a regular basis. I can showcase work that I’m doing to them and it’s relevant to their area of the business, and this then gives them a reason to want to advocate for my progression, either professional or personal.”
In all likelihood, you already know your future career sponsor. Think of your connections and mentors: who would be willing to support your career aspirations and push you to achieve your full potential?
What’s the difference between a Mentor and a Sponsor?
To summarise, a mentor is someone who shares knowledge and experience to help you at a certain point in your career. They offer advice, guidance and support. A sponsor is like a step up from a mentor, someone who offers a more long-term relationship and who will advocate for your professional or personal progression throughout your career.
Industry Mentoring at CAPSLOCK
When you join CAPSLOCK as a learner, you’re undertaking a commitment to join a new industry. We knew it would be helpful to establish a strong industry mentoring scheme as part of the course, with prominent members of the cyber security community mentoring our learners. So that’s exactly what we did!
In her role as Head of Mentoring, Amy has pulled together a fantastic and ever-growing group of willing cyber security mentors. They have come onboard to help our learners make the most of their skills and guide them through their career transformations. When you’re new to cyber security, it can be difficult to understand exactly which career path is right for you, so speaking with someone who can advise on areas to research further and give you a nudge in the right direction is useful.
So, how does it work?
All CAPSLOCK cohorts are split into small team groups at the beginning of each course. As part of CAPSLOCK’s Team-Based Learning model, you will remain in your team for the duration of the course and work with them throughout. One mentor is assigned to each individual group, and you will meet with them on a regular basis.
How you utilise your time with your mentor is entirely up to you and your team. You can talk to them about what you’re currently studying on the course, get their advice on potential job roles, use their experience to learn more about working in cyber… the possibilities are endless.
Mentors also often bring guest speakers into their mentoring sessions to help contextualise the academic learning and bring some of the roles that are available within cyber security to life. It’s a really exciting part of the CAPSLOCK experience, and brings a lot of value to our learners.
Natasha Harley, co-founder of cyberxperts and Women in CyberSecurity UK, is one of the excellent industry mentors at CAPSLOCK. Here’s what she had to say about her mentoring role:
“For the last 3 months, I have had the greatest honour and pleasure of mentoring a team of 5 amazing people currently enrolled on the CAPSLOCK cyber security re-skilling programme.
I remember back to the first session, I was so nervous. I’d not mentored before. Was I good enough? Could I actually provide any value? But I needn’t have worried. I’ve been so lucky to have such an engaged and awesome team. It’s been an incredible journey, to see every member of my team visibly grow in confidence, engage with our guest mentors, engage with the community independently and immerse themselves wholly and fully into their learning. I’m genuinely in awe of what you have all learned and achieved in such a short space of time.
I’m excited to see the amazing careers I know you will all have and I’m immensely proud of where you are today.”
If you’re interested in knowing more about the CAPSLOCK mentoring scheme, or any element of the CAPSLOCK course, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to chat.